Five Things I Learned this Week

On First Nations, French, Diamonds, ISBNs & Roasting

Northern Ontario, by Jesse Martini

I returned to Canada from Colombia in July, and in August, I decided that my fall reading would be focused on the First Nations and their (coughcolonialcough) relationship with the Canadian government. The books I’ve read so far are Understanding First Nations by Ed Whitcomb, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott and Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga. I’ve learned a lot from each and I know there’s so much more left to learn and understand. One of the surprising tidbits of information I gathered from the Talaga book was that there are a number of so-called “Indian” reserves in the northern part of Ontario, that are so remote, they can only be accessed via plane. So of course, the logical question that follows is “who is flying these planes? Which airlines fly to remote First Nations?” Being the thorough journalist that she is, Talaga had the answer.

Wasaya Airways is an Indigenous owned and operated airline that flies mainly between First Nations (they also fly to/from Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, which, if we’re being honest, are probably actually First Nation territories as well, ceded or not).

The Wasaya Airways head office is located in Thunder Bay, with three other base locations in Pickle Lake, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout. Sioux Lookout base acts as the main hub for our passenger service to 21 First Nation communities to the north and the towns of Pickle Lake, Red Lake and the city of Thunder Bay.

The website says:

Wasaya Airways depends on a diverse fleet of 17 aircraft to provide a vast network of services to customers in Northwestern Ontario and the Timmins area. Our passenger fleet is the most modern of any air carrier in Northwestern Ontario, and all of our aircraft offer two key features: they are suited to operate in northern climates and on shorter gravel runways.

Near Toulon, France by Jonathan Jean-Baptiste

Whoever you are, I’m sure you know that “yes” in French is “oui” (pronounced like the word “we” in English). But did you know that the French also use “si” (similar to the Spanish “sí,” which you probably also know, pronounced like the word “see” in English)?

Yes, oui is yes, but oui becomes si when a person is contradicting a negative question or statement. Confused? I thought you’d be, so here’s an example from Comme Une Française:

In French, we use Oui to say “yes,” most of the time. For example:

“Tu as faim ?” “Oui !” (= “Are you hungry?” “Yes I am!”)

We don’t add a verb after “Oui” … which can be confusing after a negative question. For example, take the question: “Tu n’as pas faim ?” (= Aren’t you hungry?)

If you answer “Oui”, do you mean “Yes, I’m hungry,” or “You’re right, I’m not hungry” ? If you use “Non”, does it mean “No, I’m not hungry” or “No, you’re wrong, I’m not hungry” ? It’s not a big problem, but it can make for blurry conversations.

French language resolves that ambiguity by using another word to mean “yes” after a negative question: Si !

For example:

“Tu n’as pas faim ?” “Si !” (= “Aren’t you hungry?” “, Yes, I am hungry.”)

It’s also used to deny a negative affirmation!

“Tu n’es pas allé à l’école aujourd’hui.” “Si !”

(= “You didn’t go to school today.” “Yes, I did!”)

Got it? Good.

Jewels by Edgar Soto

I was perusing The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide 2020 from Toronto Life and one of the items caught my attention. The headline for the gift suggestion read “Ethical Diamond Studs.” They didn’t catch my attention because they were diamonds (I really couldn’t care less if studs were diamonds or glass, as long as they’re dope). I kept reading to find out what made them ethical: they’re lab-grown diamonds. Since when has this been a thing?

The earrings in the guide are from a company called Clean Origin (cute), and the company’s website says:

For years, the dark secrets of the diamond industry have been hidden behind the sparkle and glamour of these gorgeous gemstones.

The singular difference between lab-created diamonds and mined diamonds is their origin. All of the beloved aspects of a diamond — how it looks, its chemical composition, and its physical properties — remain, while all of the bad parts — destructive mining and muddled ethics — are removed.

As I mentioned above, I’m not one to attach any sort of elevated status to diamonds, however, if I haaad to accept one, I’d feel better knowing it was ethically sourced, without a modicum of doubt.

Me x My Books by Jonathan Jean-Baptiste

I’ve been working on publishing my first children’s book (Kookumbah, to be out this December, hello!) so I’ve been learning a lot about the different pieces that go into publishing a book. One of those pieces is an ISBN, or an International Standard Book Number. It’s like a Social Insurance Number (or Social Security Number, for my U.S. readers) for a book. It’s a unique number used to identify a book (a title in a specific format) internationally. Today, ISBNs are 13 digits long, although they used to be 10. An ISBN allows potential readers to find, and hopefully buy, your book. Most retailers require it.

In the U.S. and the U.K. publishers can buy ISBNs from Bowker and Nielsen respectively (those are the official outlets but some self-publishing companies offer them in packages for “free” or at a discounted rate). But, my fellow Canadians, our literature-loving government offers ISBNs for free. This page has all the relevant information and links to the ISBN Canada online system where you’ll create an account where you can request and register your ISBNs.

If you’d like more information on ISBNs (and barcodes, which aren’t the same thing, FYI), Reedsy — an online platform where authors can find publishing information and connect with publishing freelancers — has a great blog post on the subject.

French Caribbean pain au beurre by Jonathan Jean-Baptiste

While cooking earlier this week, the recipe I was using mentioned “roasting,” and I realized then that I wasn’t quite sure what roasting was. I just knew it involved putting the pan in the hot oven. I assumed roasting was broiling, because baking was baking, wasn’t it? I put the oven on broil and after about 10 minutes of doubt, I decided to Google it.

Even though it’s a dictionary, Merriam-Webster has a surprisingly fun post about the subject. But just in case you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, (you did just spend a few minutes getting through this post, for which I thank you dearly, kind person), here’s the gist of it:

Both roasting and baking involve cooking by dry heat. Both are often done in ovens….Recipes make us think there’s a difference, and practically speaking there often is: when we’re roasting we’re typically using a higher oven temperature than when we’re baking, and we’re frequently aiming for the crispness and caramelization that results. Cooking is essentially about transformation, and we also tend to use roast and bake to talk about two different kinds of change: we roast firm, structured things (think carrots and whole chickens) to make them softer and less structured, and we bake soft, unstructured things (think brownie batter and bread dough) to make them firm and more structured. But those are only generalizations and exceptions abound.

I’m a writer and teacher from Toronto, with roots abroad and interests everywhere. alisonisaac.com

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